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Illustrator 10

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At a Glance
  • Adobe ILLUSTRATOR 10

Adobe Illustrator 10 marks asignificant waypoint on the migratory path to Mac OS X; it's the first of Adobe's major graphics packages to be Carbonized. But even if you haven't yet moved to OS X, Illustrator 10 is an important upgrade with an impressive array of new features: powerful drawing tools; slicing and compression tools; and automatic, data-driven artwork creation. However, some long-desired features--most notably multipage support--are still missing.

Say It with Symbols

Illustrator has needed symbol tools for a long time. In Illustrator 10, symbols are object templates that let you place instances of objects in a document without significantly increasing its file size. Whether you're new to the concept of symbols or you've used similar tools in a CAD program or in Macromedia FreeHand, learning to use Illustrator 10's symbol tools is quick and painless.

You can turn any object or group of objects into a symbol by clicking on the New Symbol button at the bottom of Illustrator's new Symbols palette. You can then drag instances of that symbol from the Symbol palette into your document to create multiple copies. Though you can't edit symbol instances, you can change their attributes--like any other object, they can be scaled and rotated. You can edit the original symbol at any time, and Illustrator will then update all the instances in your document. This makes symbols and instances much more powerful and flexible than simple copies of an object.

Symbolism tools are new features that let you create and modify sets of symbols. The easiest way to create a set of symbols is with the new Symbol Sprayer tool, a spray-can icon that squirts symbol instances. You can use the Symbol Sprayer to quickly cover an area with instances. You can change each instance's rotation and scale, as well as vary the spacing between instances. The Symbol Sprayer is pressure sensitive, so you can use a graphics tablet to control rotation and scaling.

Once you've sprayed out a bunch of symbol instances, you can use other Symbolism tools to paint variations into your collection of instances. For example, the new Symbol Sizer tool works like an airbrush--that is, its effect changes from the center of the brush to the edges. As you brush with the Symbol Sizer, it scales underlying symbol instances by varying degrees. The symbol-rotation and transparency tools work the same way, as does the Symbol Stainer tool, which allows you to tint symbols with the current foreground color.

Finally, if you redefine a symbol, Illustrator preserves modifications you may have made to an instance's scale, rotation, tint, and so forth.

The Right Tool for the Job

Adobe has expanded Illustrator's toolbox in several other ways. It has been rearranged to make room for the new tools. New to Illustrator is a set of drawing tools with which you can easily create basic shapes. First, the Line Segment tool (something that every drawing and painting program since MacPaint has offered) and the Arc tool let you make those simple shapes by just clicking on a start and an end point--you no longer have to use the Pen tool.

Two new grid tools let you drag out basic rectangular grids or circular polar grids. A thorough set of parameters lets you control the look of the grids, and you can use Illustrator's Make Guides command to quickly turn grids into guides.

Illustrator 10 also includes excellent distortion tools, which can be applied to any type of object, including text objects (not just outlines of text). The 15 Distort effects provide envelope distortions just like the text distortions found in Adobe Photoshop 6: arches, bulges, fish-eye effects, and many others. And because these are effects rather than filters, you can go back and change them at any time by adjusting your Effects settings.

The new Envelope command provides further distortion power. In addition to creating editable mesh warps,

you can define your own envelopes just by drawing a shape. This is especially useful for creating custom perspectives and distortions.

The most-robust Distortion tools in Illustrator 10, though, are its new Liquid tools, with which you can brush distortion into objects. Offering bulges, twirls, puckers, wrinkles, and more, the Liquid tools provide a completely interactive way to cre-ate complex and natural-looking distortions of any object.

New Web Tools

Illustrator 10 packs a lot of new features for Web designers. The Object-Based Slice feature lets you turn any Illustrator object, or group of objects, into a slice. As in Photoshop, slices can have names, URLs, targets, and ALT text. What's more, you can choose to render text in an object either as an image or as HTML text. When you finish designing your page, Illustrator will output an HTML file and all the necessary graphics.

If you decide later to rearrange a slice, Illustrator will automatically update the rest of your slices and tables on-the-fly. It provides full controls for specifying compression formats and ratios.

Illustrator 10 incorporates other handy Web features, such as the ability to create Flash SWF files. Also impressive are version 10's new data-driven graphics features. The program is now thoroughly scriptable using AppleScript, JavaScript, or Microsoft Visual BASIC. And all objects can now have associated variables, which you control and manipulate through scripting. The new Variables palette lets you create and edit those variables. Consequently, you can associate Illustrator documents with ODBC databases to create images based on real-time data. Helpful when you want to make maps, real-time ads, or any type of document with variable content, these new features are unique and well implemented.

All of Illustrator 10's Web tools are more than adequate. A joy to use, they work smoothly and easily, and we didn't run into any problems.

What's Missing

Despite the many improvements in symbols and in drawing and Web tools, any kind of multipage support is still conspicuously absent in Illustrator 10. Macromedia FreeHand has included it for years, and Illustrator is lagging behind in this respect. It seems that Adobe is clinging to the mistaken notion that multipage support in Illustrator would cannibalize its InDesign and PageMaker sales.

Another problem is that drag-and-drop support is still missing. You can't drag and drop a layer from one document to another, or an image from your desktop to an Illustrator document. This is very inconvenient, and we expected a remedy in this new version.

Illustrator 10's performance is good. It's a bit slower, but still perfectly acceptable, in OS X--exhibiting only some of the slowdowns we've noticed in other graphics applications running under the new OS.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Illustrator 10 is packed with stunning new features for both print and Web development. Although the absence of multipage support is frustrating, version 10's new tools and OS X support make this a very good upgrade, which we recommend without hesitation.m

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Great new Web features
    • Excellent symbol and distortion tools
    • Powerful new data-driven graphics creation


    • No multipage support
    • Poor drag-and-drop functionality
    • Runs slightly slower in OS X than in OS 9
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